eCoaching Tip 57 Tools to Help Your Teaching Evals: Performance Dashboard, Teaming Discussion Forums and Blogs, and Audio

March 24, 2008 #3 Spring 2008

eCoaching Tip 57:  Tools to Help Your Teaching Evals: Performance Dashboard, Teaming Discussion Forums and Blogs, and Audio


Expanding your repertoire of online tools always takes a bit of time, but can really make a difference in teaching and learning satisfaction. This tip looks at three tools that can boost your teaching evaluations: Blackboard’s Performance Dashboard, teaming blog tools with familiar discussion forums, and adding audio to your short concept powerpoints.

Some tools have a great time/benefit ratio and my favorite for this is Blackboards’ Performance Dashboard tool. With only five to ten minutes of your time, this tool can start saving you time and helping you keep on top of your course. What can this tool do?  This tool gives you — at a glance — snapshots of where one or all of your students are in your course.  This means you can make a quick assessment of how your students are progressing.

The Performance Dashboard tool gives you a wide-angle, birds-eye view about all of your students’ access and activity in the course. It also has student-centric options for you to do a deeper assessment of individual students’ postings. In short, the tool makes it easy to answer questions, such as the following, quickly and with a minimum of searching and clicking.

o  Have all my students started accessing the course site regularly? This is particularly critical to know in the first few days of a course.

o  Has Jason begun accessing the course regularly? How many days has it been since his last course access? Has he been able to address his access and work schedule issues?

o  How is Denise doing with the required discussion postings? Are her postings reflecting increased sophistication and understanding over time? You can gather data for this type of question by choosing a collective view of an individual student’s postings over time.

o  Is the class as a whole progressing on schedule for the course assignments and check tests? Are any bottlenecks starting to form?

o  Does the overall data picture for the course suggest the need for a change in plans and assignments going forward?

With all this information on student progress and participation so readily available, here is how to get started on how your students are doing. The Performance Dashboardis only two (2) clicks from your course Control Panel.After clicking on Course Panel, the Performance Dashboardlink is in the Assessmentsection in the same column as the   Gradebooklink and the Gradebook Viewslink.

When you click on the Performance Dashboarda roster of your students appears showing the date of last access, the number of days since last access, and direct links to that student’s postings on the discussion boards and the student’s grades in your grade book.

Try it and see how it can save you time in “being on top” of your whole course, literally.

More resources on this tool are in the references and resources section below. The tool is so easy you won’t need these resources for using the tool, but you might find them useful for maximizing your use of it.

Teaming Tools — Using Blogs and Discussion Boards Together

Do you use discussion boards? Of course. Discussion boards are the online equivalent of conversation time in face-to-face courses. Discussion forums are essential places for discussing core course topics, for building community, and learning what students know, are learning and want to learn. They are great for getting a sense of each student’s zone of proximal development, what they are ready to learn.

What about blogs? Are you currently using these? Blogs are online journals that support individual or small group writing and reflection. Blogs make it easy to combine text, audio, video and images while keeping a record about what each student is learning and thinking. Blogs also are designed to support commenting by faculty and other learners.

A previous tip (Tip #47) compared and contrasted the features and uses of journals, wikis and blogs. What we didn’t do at that time was to suggest how you might use discussions and blogs in the same course as companion tools for different stages or processes of learning. Here are two stories about how you might use discussions and blogs together from Ruth Newberry, the Director of Educational Technology at Duquesne,

For example, according to Newberry, the blog tool is “ideal for all the pre-writing work phases” in a writing course. Blogs share many features with text-based journals, but one key difference is that blogs are usually in reverse chronological order, with the latest postings first.  So, in one of the writing courses at Duquesne, students are using the blog tool as a place to post and collect resources and “think aloud” about possible themes and writing goals.  The blog is also a good place for the student to draft a proposal or abstract, propose a direction for their writing and then invite comments and review from the faculty member or from fellow students.

The discussion board in the writing class then becomes the place where the whole class can “come together” to discuss proposed topics, the writing processes and the role of text and other media collectively following all the pre-writing work. Learning and community grows as learners move back and forth between the collective group meetings and the individual authoring and autonomy needed for writing. Research by Hayles, a professor of literature and digital media at Duke University, suggests learners are most stimulated by learning experiences that are “associated with feelings of autonomy, competence, and relatedness” (2007). Moving back and forth between blogs and discussion forums incorporates these very actions and feelings, creating a serendipitous blending of learning and tools.

Another example how the joint use of blogs and discussions might be used effectively is in a nursing course. In this course, the discussions are currently being used for discussing the more formal completed work assignments and for asking questions and the blogs are used for informal planning and thinking.

If you are ready to explore using blogs, the blog tool for your course can be “turned on” for you after you complete a short online or face-to-face tutorial. This may be something you want to do so that when you prepare for your next course, you can plan for its use. Check out the Ed Tech’s center News and Events link here.When you complete the Bb Blog Certification Tutorial, you can request that access to the blog tool can be added to your course web site set of tools.

Quick Hint on Doing Audio Powerpoints

Have you wanted to prepare an audio file to accompany a short PowerPoint review or core concept? This is another suggestion from Ruth.  As you prepare to do this, here is an important hint: The finished resource is a folder with three pieces: J

o  Prepare your PowerPoint and upload it to your course site, creating a special folder for this resource, the audio file and the student instructions.

o  Open the podcasting tool in your course and record your comments.  Here are two more hints from veteran users: First, don’t worry about making your comments too perfect. Pretend you are meeting with a student in your office, on the phone, or in any face-to-face situation and just walk through your PowerPoint or other resource, recording your comments.  Secondly, don’t worry too much about what you sound like. The student really wants to hear your voice and benefit from your perspective and your expertise. Once you have completed the audio recording, upload this audio file into the same folder as your PowerPoint file.

o  Prepare a short word document with instructions to open the PowerPoint file first and then to launch the audio file. Ditto on loading this file into the same folder.

Closing Thoughts

Enjoy testing and experimenting with some of these tools and invite your students to learn with you together.

References and Resources

Blackboard Resource for Performance Dashboard at Duquesne. Accessed August 13, 2010 from

Blackboard Resource for Performance Dashboard from Blackboard.  Accessed August 13

Gray, David. Student Procrastination Detection. (Part of a full series of a Blackboard Feature of the Week from Palomar College. Accessed August 13, 2010 at

Hayles, Katherine N. (2007). Hyper and Deep Attention: The Generational Divide in Cognitive Modes. Profession,pp. 187-199. (Note: A large percentage of this is available at Accessed August 13, 2010.

Knauff, Barbara. Blackboard Support at Dartmouth – Performance Dashboard. Quick screen shots and a video demo from April 23, 2007.) Accessed August 13, 2010 at

Note: These E-coaching tips were initially developed for faculty in the School of Leadership & Professional Advancement at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, PA. This library of tips has been organized and updated through 2016  in the second edition of the  book, The Online Teaching Survival Guide: Simple and Practical Pedagogical Tips coauthored with Rita Marie Conrad. Judith can be reached judith followed by